Organic food tied up in red tape, boosting costs and plastic use

organic supermarket

Shops are reducing the number of organic products on their shelves because of the expense of complying with strict EU regulations, according to a government advisory committee on cutting red tape.

The rules have led to more fruit and vegetables being wrapped in plastic to prevent “contamination” with non-organic products and to soaring costs for shopkeepers, the ATR said in recommendations to the farm ministry.

The legislation aims to protect consumers against fraud but has led in practice to so many checks and demands that “they have become unworkable”, the ATR said. It is calling on the ministry to campaign for changes to the EU regulations so that the cost of compliance could be cut.

Ekoplaza franchise owner Pieter Tent told the AD that if he mixed three different types of organic nuts to sell a nut mix it would have to be certified all over again. “We have to register everything we buy and everything we sell in kilos… which is an enormous job when you consider veg and fruit is often sold per piece.”

Research group Panteia, which looked into the problems on behalf of the ATR, said that shopkeepers are now switching to alternative labels which do not require such stringent checks.

This is not only reducing choice for consumers but “may also be damaging consumer confidence in organic products,” the ATR said. It is also increasing the use of plastic packaging.

The additional costs range from €5 to €15,000 a year, depending on the size of the store, Panteia said.

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